MT Business Travel: Table Talk - Where Dianne Thompson eats...

I have to say I'm an Ivy girl. If you're having lunch to catch up on how business is going and it doesn't involve anything confidential, then it's a great place. There's a lot of bustle, it's got a great buzz and it's always full. A lot of my guests have heard about the Ivy but haven't been, so it's fun to introduce them. I first went there in 1998, with the ad agency WCRS. I was immediately struck by it and now I go about once a fortnight.

It may be famous for its clientele, but it's actually a warm and friendly place. The staff are very smart at reading the national press and keeping up to date with the business world. The day after I won businesswoman of the year in 2001, I had a meeting there with an ad agency. The staff didn't know in advance that I would be there, but they still sent over a bottle of pink champagne to congratulate me. They are super-efficient and very slick, but genuine with it.

For business lunches, the service has to be good but discreet - you don't want an eager waiter hovering over you. And as the days of long lunches are over, it has to be speedy. I was at the Ivy with the head of MI5 the day the England cricket team paraded the Ashes in Trafalgar Square. She had trouble getting there and had only an hour. We had one course and a coffee, but the staff were able to accommodate us.

For a lunch to go smoothly, the food has to be good. And the food at the Ivy is excellent. The menu doesn't change much - enough to keep it interesting, but the old favourites are always there. The tomato basil galette is to die for, they do a mean shepherd's pie, the sashimi is fantastic and the loin of yellow-fin tuna is excellent.

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